The Pallilog

Amid more cancellations, there is hope for baseball

Amid more cancellations, there is hope for baseball
Bob Levey/Getty Images

So, the general target for this column is 800 words in length. 788 words to go! And so begins the month of May. 777 words to go!

Two of the great events of the baseball summer were inevitably canceled this week. The National Baseball Hall of Fame's July induction ceremony for the class of 2020 will be rolled into the Class of 2021. Much worse, the Little League World Series scheduled for August, wiped out. Given the times, any ray of optimism on a number of fronts is a good thing so long as it's not laughably pie in the sky optimistic. There was some glimmer this week about the baseball season beginning by the end of June. USA Today's outstanding baseball writer/reporter Bob Nightengale broke the story that the emerging possibility would have a start date no later than July 2, with the 30 MLB teams broken into three 10 team divisions with all clubs using their home ballparks. The Astros would play in the West with the Rangers, Dodgers, Angels, Giants, Athletics, Padres, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. Those would be the only nine opponents the Astros would face in a regular season that would run 100+ games from start to a late October finish ahead of whatever postseason plan including neutral sites was settled upon for November and perhaps even early December. Sign us up!

Justin Verlander said Thursday he's recovering very well from his dual injuries (groin surgery and lat). Reminder that while they're absolutely lousy circumstances under which to glean a silver lining, a delayed start to the season means the Astros will have Verlander ready to go when (I refuse to consider if) it gets here. An on time start, and Verlander probably misses the first two months plus.

If you missed it early this week, the Astros were ousted in the quarterfinals of MLB.com's all-time franchise best simulation tournament. The Yankees beat the Astros in seven games. The Astros blew Game 7 after holding a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning. Billy Wagner gave up a tying homer to Mickey Mantle in the bottom of the ninth, then in the 12th Yogi Berra took Brad Lidge deep to win the series. I just typed a paragraph with details of a computer-played baseball game. I now pause to sob quietly for a few seconds.

A Big Deal 

Congrats to agent-less 25 year old Texans' left tackle Laremy Tunsil for smoking Bill O'Brien in their contract negotiations. Three years 66 million dollars is absurd. O'Brien continues to rack up "you have to be kidding me" GM decisions. Tunsil is a very good player. He is not the second coming of Anthony Munoz. For Tunsil to get four million more per year than the prior richest offensive tackle deal? Another way of framing Tunsil's 22 mil per season: that's a million dollars for each penalty he committed last season, plus a two million dollar bonus.

As much as one can reasonably judge a draft at the time of that draft, Bill O'Brien did fine with the Texans' top two choices. The loss of D.J. Reader left a big hole in the defensive line interior. Second round pick Ross Blacklock out of Elkins High School and TCU just needs to validate his selection. It's also not inconceivable that J.J. Watt gets cut after the 2020 season and Blacklock kicks out to defensive end. And before anyone goes screaming "Heretic!" at the suggestion of Watt being on the spot this year, he's missed at least half the regular season three of the last four seasons and is 31 years old. Watt's 15 and a half million dollar salary for the coming season is safe, but another major injury before he turns 32 while scheduled to make 17 and a half million in 2021?

Third round choice linebacker Jonathan Greenard gets mixed reviews, but the Texans needed another edge rusher possibility and I'm good with taking a guy named first team All-Southeastern Conference.

The Dallas Cowboys don't retire numbers, so their issuing number 88 to first round pick CeeDee Lamb is noteworthy. The wide receiver out of Oklahoma takes his spot in a Cowboys' number 88 lineage that includes Drew Pearson, Michael Irvin, and Dez Bryant. The Cowboys may now have three different receivers (Lamb, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup) who a majority of NFL teams might take over any Texans' receiver. It's not that the Texans' corps stinks.

Buzzer Beaters

1. NBC is airing a mythical Kentucky Derby Saturday with the field comprised of the 13 Triple Crown winners. Secretariat obviously should win. Citation to place. Or Lucky Dan. Kudos if you get the reference. Affirmed to show. 2. Mint julep may be the most disgusting cocktail I've ever sipped. 3. Best "May" athletes: Bronze-Lee May Silver-Don Maynard Gold-Willie Mays

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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